How do you think the poet feels about herself as a woman, based on her description of herself in lines 25-28 of "Still I Rise"?

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meg526's profile pic

meg526 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise" is generally an ode to womanhood, and particularly an ode to black womanhood. The refrain throughout the poem suggests the speaker is addressing someone who has tried or is trying control or oppress her. This could be a partner or society or, as aspects of the poem suggest, the whole weight of human history.

The particular selection of lines 25-28 speaks to a black woman's sexuality. Preceding those lines, the speaker points to historic injuries that black women have faced. Given that fact, we can conclude that black women's sexuality is one more area where the speaker has witnessed or experienced degradation based on skin color.

"Does my sexiness upset you?" (25) is a pointed reference to the stereotypes in American culture that were cultivated during the Jim Crow era. Black women were portrayed as sexless and unattractive, particularly in the Mammy figure, in order to make them appear non-threatening and happy with their lot taking care of white families. Black women who spoke out against their lot or dared to portray themselves as sexual were branded whores.

In lines 26-28, the speaker asks whether it's surprising, given all that the addressee has done to devalue and degrade her, she values her worth as a woman; specifically her sexual worth. The speaker "dance[s] like I've got diamonds / At the meeting of my thighs" (26-28). Not only does the speaker value herself, she values herself as highly as a diamond; her sexuality is precious. These lines are meant to reject the dominant dual narratives of black women's sexuality as defined by others: both as a means of dutiful (and, throughout slavery, unconsenting) reproduction, and as given freely to anyone.

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junebug614's profile pic

junebug614 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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Lines 25-28 of the poem "Still I Rise" are: 

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I've got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

Through these lines, we can see that the author/speaker of the poem is most definitely confident.  Throughout the poem, she is reinforcing that despite all attempts to hold her back, she is still successful, she still rises up. In these lines, the reader can also conclude that, despite the fact that she feels she's been held back purposefully, she is not angry or spiteful. There is a lightheartedness in the lines 25-26. Her confidence in her physical, emotional, and spiritual self is what is important to her, and she doesn't have time to waste being angry, upset, or held back.  

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